ITW : HAWKAN KEZIAH [INITIATE]

On the occasion of Initiate’s new season we met Hawkan Keziah, by his real name, Renaud, one of its cofounder. The Brussels-based collective was created in September 2015 and, since then, has been setting the tempo of our nights and afternoons with events at Fuse, C12 and La vallée.

Why did you choose the name Initiate?

At the beginning there were Brice Deloose, Andri Haflidason, Rachid (Airem), Laura and myself. When we put our ideas together, Initiate was the team’s least preferred name. We were finding it too sectarian, too ‘niche’ and not open enough for those who are less familiar with the musical universe in which we evolve.

In the end, I pushed a little and after some weeks everybody felt the vibe and that the name doesn’t mean it is exclusively for the initiate but it is also a source of initiation. Therefore it is a concept as much for the connoisseurs as for those who are less familiar with it.

At the first event, quite a few people were not used to the techno sphere but in the end a lot of them were pleasantly surprised with this deep vibe, different from the industrial techno. So the name Initiate has established itself with time.

Is the team still the same three years later?

Brice, Andri, Rashid and myself are still here, this is the core team from the beginning. Afterwards Charlie and Dominic joined us, after two years. The project has grown and right now there are seven of us.

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What brought you to work together?

Brice and I met 4 months before the launch of Initiate and we immediately hooked up. In addition, Brice had worked as a sound engineer at the Fuse. Since he was no longer working there, he wanted to be on the other side of the stage once by organizing rather than being a sound engineer. He offered to assist him in the programming and that’s how the project was born.

Speaking of programming, what is your guiding line?

For the first event, we invited Abdullah Rashim and Acronym (Northern Electronic). It is a deep techno universe but we already included something different, more experimental than what was usually done in Brussels at the time.

Then, by inviting artists like Polar Inertia, Dasha Rush, or Ness – who are more club-like in their production that Abdullah Rashim or Acronyme are for instance – there have been some variants. However, we keep a deep techno universe, even though I don’t like categorising music styles and artists since each artist we invite is fairly eclectic and has different influences, ranging from ambient to techno.

This eclectic side is very present in the line-ups. I think an artist like Polar Inertia doesn’t at all sound like Korridor. Their techniques of producing are not the same. Their live performances are completely different… But yes, there is a guiding line, though I think it is because Brice’s and my selection and musical background are directly related to our history and to what we play ourselves in clubs.

Was the Fuse an obvious choice for you?

I have been going out there since I’m 17. I’m proud to participate in the history of this 20-year-old club. It was too good to pass up. It was self-evident.

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Then, the Brussels public audience a little bored of the Fuse, at least my generation, because we started going out early to the Fuse. However, they’ve have taken over the helm and it is a real pleasure to work with them. Whether it is with the staff, the managers or the people who take care of the artists. They are a good partner, the staff is professional and their network is sprawling thanks to this club’s history.

Initiate’s parties are quite intimate; they conveniently take place in the Fuse’s Room II, a.k.a. Motion Room. Have you already thought to organise events in Room I?

It was on the agenda not so long ago. In the end, it did not happen for different reasons. It is difficult to fill Room I with our music style. I think that due to its capacity and infrastructure this room rather fits a more energetic music style, maybe more industrial. That being said, we would not pass up a superb opportunity with an artist too big to play in Room II!

I like Motion room’s intimate dimension though, and the fact that the room can host maximum 350-400 people. We see this “tiny amphitheatre” aspect, which lends itself very well to the initiatory aspect of the concept. There is even some electricity, some energy that would be more difficult to find in room I.

Still about the venue, you went to C12. Do you have other places in mind or would you prefer stay in the Fuse?

As the Fuse bet on us from the beginning, as long as we organise there, it would be inappropriate and inopportune to go somewhere else and compete with them. This is why our collaboration with C12 was on a Thursday, for their “free Thursday” series of events. They were inviting a bunch of Brussels-based organisers. So yes, there will be other collaboration with C12 in the future. It is still on the agenda.

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Now, in parallel, there is “Initiate Reflexion” at la Vallée, launched by Charlie and Dominique. They play ambient, contemplative, electro-acoustic music. Our public target is different but not that much since the Fuse’s public is usually also interested in other stuff and in discoveries in electronic music.

What are the key ingredients for a successful Initiate party for you?

We’ve never really missed any shot yet. For me, the centrepiece for a party that goes well the coherence between the programmed artists. The sidelines also play an important role, such as getting together on a terrace before the event or spending time

in a restaurant, which allows going relaxed to the club. Obviously, the attendance during the party also counts into play and, finally, especially the atmosphere…

Also, there is the financial aspect on which we can evaluate the viability and the scale of an event, but what matters the most to me is welcoming the artists and spending a good time. Whether it is for the public, the artists or the organisers. This is what really matters and makes me feel good the day after one of our parties.

What do you think of the local, Brussels scene?

As a member of the Brussels Electronic Marathon, I have a tendency to say that we have a real local scene. The Marathon is not born out of nothing. There are resources the Belgian organisers unfortunately underexploit.

Though I think venues like C12, created by the Deep in House crew, which opens up to other organisers for the Free Thursdays for instance, typically match the Marathon’s spirit. After the party we organised there, I confessed to them that I was personally touched by the fact that dudes who landed a venue as original as C12 let other organisers make the most of it.

Therefore, there has been a real revival of interest for the local scene for some years in Brussels. However, there is still work to do at the political level. In Germany, cities usually support the organisers. In Brussels, politicians are still very cautious with all that concerns electronic music.

What would you particularly retain from Initiate’s history so far?

Humanely speaking, it’s been great meetings with the artists we invited. Some of which led to friendships. Anyway, there is a genuine human dimension which has been a true plus for me. Initiate parties are the first events I really organise from A to Z. This is why, for instance, I attach particular importance in welcoming the artists myself at the station rather than sending a driver.

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Otherwise, each party has been pretty memorable and this for various reasons. If we were to retain one in particular, it would be the one when we invited Cio D’or and Kangding Ray in February 2016. It was the third event were organising and, in a way, the one that marked the occasion. That’s when an audience started following us.

Then, there are also collaborations such as with the Fuse, C12 or last year when we collaborated with Form and Function for the BEM. It is typically this kind of spirit, with exchanges between collectives and artists, and this human side that characterises Initiate.

Renewal for Brussels and quality are, among other things, what characterises Inititate, a collective, a concept and a series of event that we have not yet heard the last of.

Initiate will be back at the Fuse on November 17. In the meantime they will be at C12, alongside the Belgian collective Deep in House, on October 14th for a party of the Brussels Electronic Marathon.

English translation : Raphaël Rozenberg
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